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same air - Jan Ponsford Quartet

8 tracks, 4 original, and 4 standards including a real favourite of mine, “Teach me Tonight” make up this new release on Symbol Records from one of Britain’s leading vocalists, Jan Ponsford. Jan now spends a lot of her time in Greece, and this can only be seen as a huge loss to the UK!

This terrific new album opens in a low key form, with the eponymous “Same Air” , a composition by Jan herself, a lyrical, slow plea for peace – and though it’s cleary a political statement from the heart, it never walks into the wall of didacticism, and in many ways fulfils the promise of the sleeve notes.

The standards are beautifully treated too; Ellington’s “Do Nothing” is glorious, but it’s “Teach Me Tonight” that delights, with the arcane art of scat being put through its paces in no uncertain terms. Scat either works or it doesn’t, and many a wannabe Jazz singer has tried to get away with it; but in this case, Jan – no wannabe! - proves master of the art and treats us to a shimmering, soulful, sultry scat session that never overcooks it and always remains musical in the true jazz feel. Beautiful.

The final track is an upbeat LA piece, and the solos make the verses and choruses fit a structure that is such a perfect epitome of the jazz idiom that it should be taught in schools.
Frances Knight’s piano is never strident, always supportive and when featured on its own is subtle and colourful. The rhythm section, too, is strong and unafraid; Terry Pack on bass provides a river of sound on which the glistening stones of Frances’ piano and the tumbling toms of Winston Clifford rise and fall in support of the wonderful voice that is Jan Ponsford’s instrument.

Mention should also be made of the technical brilliance of the album. A clean, clear recording with all the depth, separation and clarity that one could want. It’s particularly well recorded in the vocal range, which only serves to complement Jan’s skills and the arrangements and musicianship of the quartet.
A fine album and certainly one of the vocal albums of the year. Real jazz, too, not the marketing man’s idea of it!

Reviewed by Nigel Bourne, Jazz Views.

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